Prime Minister to Roll Out 2 Gujarat Nutrition Programs for Pregnant and Lactating Women Tomorrow
PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi will launch two Gujarat government flagship programs in Vadodara on Saturday under its integrated child development services, Poshan Abhiyan, which will focus on rolling out supplementary nutrition for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
The Mukhyamantri Matrushakti Yojana, which will cover 7 lakh women, is the first program of the Gujarat government to address nutritional deficiencies within the first 1,000 days of conception of a child (from pregnancy to 2 years old), considered the crucial first window to check for malnutrition. The program will include the distribution of 2 kg of chickpeas, 1 kg of toor daal and 1 liter of fortified groundnut oil.
“The whole program will be electronically controlled. The packages will have barcodes which will be scanned and the scheme is OTP based. This means that the recipient will receive OTPs confirming that they have received these packages, so that we know that the intended beneficiary actually receives the ration,” said Avantika Darji, Co-Director, ICDS.
Apart from this, the Prime Minister will also revive the Poshan Sudha Yojana under which hot cooked meals will be provided to tribal women once a day at Anganwadi centres. The pilot project was conducted in 10 districts in the state and is now being rolled out to all 14 predominantly tribal districts.
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Under this scheme, pregnant women and nursing mothers registered in Anganwadi are provided with a full nutritious meal. Additionally, iron and calcium tablets as well as health and nutrition education are also offered.
The announcement of the rollout comes ahead of Assembly elections in Gujarat, and less than a month after the last National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5, data showed that 89% of children in the country aged 6 at 23 months not receiving the minimum acceptable diet.
The minimum acceptable diet is a compound of two main elements – breastfeeding and its frequency up to two years, and feeding
the diversity. A child needs at least 4 of the 7 food groups indicated by the WHO daily to have a minimum acceptable diet.
Only 25% of children benefit from this dietary diversity while 35% of children receive adequate milk frequency, experts say, adding that this is the NFHS indicator that is the most direct indicator of child malnutrition.
Incidentally, Gujarat is at the bottom of the pile in NFHS 5, along with Uttar Pradesh, with the lowest adequate diets for children between 6 and 23 months at 5.9% each.
One of the most significant impacts of a deficient diet in the first 1,000 days is the enormous repair of cognitive abilities, including sensory and linguistic abilities.
“Key cognitive development takes place at this stage, affecting a child’s later IQ and cognitive development, with brain growth of 80% in 2 years. If children do not receive adequate nutrition, growth is stunted and the size is also affected, said a senior official from the WCD ministry, which deploys the Poshan Abhiyan.
Ministry officials, however, said the NFHS may not reflect the true picture on the ground. “The NFHS data is based on a much smaller sample of 6,000 households. We have collected data from 1.8 crore children registered through our Poshan Tracker. This data showed that malnutrition is actually 7%. The NFHS shows this data at 19%,” said a senior ministry official.
WCD Minister Smriti Irani during the last session of Parliament informed Rajya Sabha that according to the tracker 7% of children in the country are malnourished while 2% are severely malnourished.
The ministry is now having its Poshan Tracker data reassessed by the World Bank. “We want our data to be validated at least three times before publishing it next year. The World Bank is currently conducting the first third-party assessment of Poshan Tracker data,” a senior official said.